Fire

Notes from the rewatch: First starts for Drew Conner and Matt Lampson

Notes from the rewatch: First starts for Drew Conner and Matt Lampson

After being fairly consistent with his lineups so far this season, Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic shook things up at two positions ahead of Saturday's match at the LA Galaxy.

Goalkeeper Jorge Bava had played every minute and right back Michael Harrington had started every match, only sitting for 12 minutes, in the first eight matches of the season. Paunovic sent both to the bench against the Galaxy and brought in two first-time starters in Matt Lampson and Drew Conner.

Lampson started 11 matches in 2016 while battling with Sean Johnson for the starting goalkeeper spot, but hadn't played since August. Conner came up as a midfielder through the Fire's academy and after only playing in the USL in his rookie season in 2016 had made four substitute appearances in the midfield in 2017. Conner's first career MLS start came at a new position, right back.

Here's a look at how those two fared plus the Fire's defending on corner kicks, which cost them the win.

Matt Lampson back in goal

To be perfectly honest Lampson wasn't asked to do much. The Galaxy put two shots on target, both off corner kicks and neither of which Lampson had much of a chance to save. The most he was tested was on a Emmanuel Boateng cross in the 67th minute. It wasn't on goal, but Lampson did cleanly catch the ball instead of allowing a loose ball rebound situation. Lampson came off his line on a couple occasions to prevent breakaways and was able to catch one of Giovani Dos Santos' corners. He dribbled out of pressure on one occasion and didn't have any errant passes.

It was a mistake-free showing similar to Bava's shutout against Real Salt Lake in the home opener when he didn't make any saves. Lampson let in two goals that weren't his fault and didn't make any distribution errors.

Drew Conner's first MLS start

If making a first MLS start wasn't enough to test Conner's nerve, he had to do so in a new position and against Ashley Cole and Romain Alessandrini. Cole, a 36-year-old who played for Arsenal and Chelsea and has over 100 caps for England, isn't as fast as he used to be, but is still one of the better left backs in MLS. Alessandrini is the Galaxy's newest designated player and has been the team's top attacking threat this season.

Conner had been training as a right back with the Fire, but this was his first game time at the position outside of a 12-minute stint against New England on April 15 when the Fire were up three goals and a man. Conner was subbed out after 75 minutes and managed to not get burned on a goal, but he did get burned a few times.

Alessandrini got behind Conner on two occasions in the first half hour. The first time he got a cross away and the second time Johan Kappelhof slid over to cover for Conner and give LA a corner.

Conner was higher up the field than right winger Luis Solignac on quite a few occasions early. It's hard to tell if this was tactical or Conner being too high up the field for a defender. Solignac did seem to drop back to cover Conner in these situations.

Conner's defensive highlight is probably this marking job he did on Alessandrini as the Galaxy winger went to head a cross (try not to be mesmorized by the left side of the Fire's defense being sliced and diced by Bradley Diallo).

When Emmanuel Boateng subbed into the match late in the first half for an injured Jermaine Jones, Alessandrini moved to the right. Boateng was fresher at that point and is faster than Alessandrini. He got by Conner a few times to get away clean crosses, but nothing came of them. Boateng is LA's version of David Accam. He burns a lot of people on a regular basis.

Offensively, Conner completed 21 of his 30 passes and didn't attempt any crosses. He had a couple nice touches and passes in traffic, but didn't contribute much to the attack.

Corner kick defending

The Galaxy had eight corner kicks and scored two goals from them. Lampson caught one and one was floated to the edge of the box where Boateng collected it and there was no header. Out of the six corner kicks where there were headers, LA won four of them and three led to shots on goal. This cost the Fire the win.

Daniel Steres, who scored LA's first goal, also had a free header on an Alessandrini free kick in the 72nd minute that could have given LA the lead, but went over the bar.

The Fire's lack of movement on LA's first goal is staggering.

Paunovic will likely prioritize improvement from his team on defending corner kicks this week.

Fire stay busy on draft day, trade David Accam to Philadelphia

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USA TODAY

Fire stay busy on draft day, trade David Accam to Philadelphia

The dominoes continue to fall on the Fire's offseason, and seem to be doing so at an increasing pace.

After making two trades on draft day, the blockbuster move of the day broke after the first round completed. As first reported by Paul Tenorio and later announced at the draft, the Fire traded winger David Accam to Philadelphia for $300,000 in General Allocation Money and $900,000 in Targeted Allocation Money. The $1.2 million total is among the biggest allocation money trades in league history.

The move will have major implications on 2018 due to Accam's production since joining the Fire in 2015, but also because it likely is a move to set up other moves. Accam had his best year with the Fire in 2017 with 14 goals and eight assists while only making 24 starts (30 appearances in total).

However, he had voiced his displeasure about being left off the All-Star Game roster by coach Veljko Paunovic, saying he was "disappointed my coach ignored me." Accam seemed to be appeased when the Fire picked up his option for 2018 in August. With his contract situation somewhat more sorted out, it appeared Accam may still have a future with the Fire despite having previously stated a desire to return to Europe at some point in his career.

While the move is a big one for Philadelphia in getting a player like Accam, the Fire likely aren't done. This is typically not the type of move that is made without another move in mind. Juan Quintero rumors continue to float around with the Fire and Argentine club River Plate both being mentioned as possible landing places for the Colombian international who has scored at a World Cup.

With Accam leaving, the Fire have an open spot for a Designated Player. Nemanja Nikolic and the recently re-signed Bastian Schweinsteiger are the two DPs on the roster.

Fire deal goalkeeper Matt Lampson to complete draft day trade

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USA TODAY

Fire deal goalkeeper Matt Lampson to complete draft day trade

Draft day is never boring with Nelson Rodriguez in charge.

The Fire's general manager made two trades to get into the top 10 and one of them sent the starting goalkeeper for much of the 2017 season away to Minnesota. As part of a deal to land Jon Bakero, Matt Lampson went the other direction to the Loons.

The Fire sent $100,000 of Targeted Allocation Money and $75,000 of General Allocation Money as well as the No. 15 pick. Lampson was announced later because he needed to be notified before it was made public.

The interesting thing about Lampson's inclusion in the trade is that the Fire had already sent a decent amount of value to Minnesota. D.C. United traded the No. 3 pick to Los Angeles FC for $100,000 in TAM and $100,000 in GAM. Dallas gave $200,000 in GAM to Montreal for the No. 4 pick. The Fire sent $25,000 less in allocation money than the previous two picks went for but added the No. 15 pick and Lampson.

Lampson, initially a Columbus Crew homegrown player, signed with the Fire after trialing with the team in the preseason of 2016. Lampson made 11 starts in 2016, battling Sean Johnson for time between the posts. In 2017, he began the year as the backup to Jorge Bava but won the job and finished the year with 24 regular season starts and started the playoff defeat to the New York Red Bulls.

After Richard Sanchez, who made two starts in the latter part of 2017, was brought back and Jorge Bava exited, it appeared Lampson and Sanchez would be battling for the starting job in 2018. Sanchez and Stefan Cleveland, a second round pick last year, are the two goalkeepers on the roster currently.

A day before the draft Rodriguez told reporters, "We’re still considering adding competition to that position [goalkeeper].”